When Eric Jaskolka was 19, he made a discovery that would change his life: X-Men comics. It was his former Sunday school teacher, then the owner of a local comic shop in Lincoln, NE, who first introduced them. “Hey, you might be interested in X-Men,” he said, steering him towards the Marvel Comics tales of superheroes and genetically-mutated humans born with extraordinary powers.
Right away, Jaskolka recalls, he was sold.
“What got me into specifically X-Men is the tie with X-Men and Judaism and the Holocaust,” the IT professional explains. “There’s a lot of themes throughout, as far as mutants being put into camps or mutant registration acts. But today it [represents] all of those who are different, or being ostracized. And in my life I’ve had that time…you get picked on. So It’s also kind of rooting for the underdog.”
Today, 30 years into his obsession, Jaskolka has about 9,500 comics, 500 statues and 850 action figures in his collection, which he’s spent about $150,000 on and which is now worth “well over” $225,000.
“I have over 20,000 X-Men items — comic books, action figures, statues, bobbleheads, stuffed dolls, lunch boxes, Wolverine sneaker snappers from the UK, masks, costumes,” he shares. “Do I ever get rid of anything? No.”
Jaskolka, whose favorite X-Men character is Wolverine, because “he’s fighting between his two sides, man vs. animal,” has held the Guinness World Record for the largest X-Man memorabilia collection since 2012, back when he had 15,400 items in his holdings.
His treasures are kept in a dedicated room in his basement, measuring 18 by 24 feet and filled to the brim. “The first rule is look, don’t touch,” he warns.
“People think I’m crazy. I think I’m crazy,” he says of his passion. “I get all kinds of comments, from ‘I can’t believe you’re doing this, you’re throwing money away,’ [to] ‘this is cool, this is awesome, I wish my wife or my husband or my partner would let me do that.'”
He adds, “When I met my wife, at the time, it was a package deal: It was a small collection of a couple hundred action figures, a few comics, myself and my dog.” After their wedding, Jaskolka recalls, his best friend said, “‘May you have enough children to name [after] all the X-Men!’ I did name my youngest Logan. By the third one…my wife said, ‘We’re done.'”
In addition to collecting items, Jaskolka enjoys making connections with other fans and with comic-book professionals — including former X-Men and Wolverine artist Marc Silvestri, and X-Men writer and creator Stan Lee, both of whom he’s met.
Regarding the late Lee — who held several records, including for being the most prolific creator of comic-book characters — he says, “I actually got to show him that we’re both in the Guinness Book of World Records on opposite pages, and he says, ‘Now we’re connected for life.'”
Finally, Jaskolka says, despite the X-Men dating back to 1963, the comics are “absolutely relevant today. I think the world has become much more open. People are comfortable coming out with who they are and what they represent, and that is a consistent theme in X-Men throughout the years.”
He even believes his appreciation has made him a better person. “I like to make sure that I always keep an open mind and always look at everyone for who they are, and the possibilities within them,” he says. “I always try to look at the good side of people.”
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